As the challenge to cut red tape continues even the fairly new Equality Act is not without a consideration.
In a bid to reduce unemployment the Government has been advised to cut down on legislation in this area. At the moment, employers still fear that the cost of taking on new staff is too high and similarly if they need to get rid of them, should their business take a turn for the worst, the procedures too lengthy.
The proposals for the Equality Act 2010 are to remove Employment Tribunals' power to make wider recommendations in discrimination cases and also the procedure for obtaining information. There's also the suggestion that third party harassment law could be repealed, which will ensure employers are no longer liable for the harassment of an employee by a third party. A review is being considered of the public sector's Equality Duty, specifically establishing whether the legal obligation on public bodies to consider the impact of their decisions on different groups, is working as was initially intended. There is also some thought being given as to whether or not there should be a formal repeal of the socio-economic duty. This is a legal obligation on public bodies to consider the impact of their decisions on social class.
The Government is running a consultation period in which they hope to get an idea of the views of those affected by the Act. The Home Office has said that the views so far expressed seem to say that the above processes in relation to power to make wider recommendations and also the obtainment of information, serve no real purpose. The feeling is that the wider recommendations will not provide an effective remedy for employment tribunals.
The idea behind the second proposed cut comes from the fact that the obtainment of information was intended to help increase pre-hearing settlements. Unfortunately this effect has not crystalised and the tribunal loads have not decreased as a result. In fact the Home Office has evidence that the extra information power has actually increased the burden on employers and so also their risk when taking on new staff.
The consultation seeks to find evidence to these above-mentioned assertions and also further views on the matter. Last year the Government's "Red Tape Challenge" called for more wide views on the Act and in fact whether or not it should just be cut altogether. Clearly such a proposition angered many organisations representing those with disabilities whom the Act was meant to protect.
In a similar vein, the government also unveiled significant reforms to the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), including halving its budget. It seems very little time passes between the announcements for yet another cut of some kind. With the public release of the previously leaked Beecroft report it will be interesting to see what might come next.